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What benefits do Training Needs Analysis really bring?

What benefits do Training Needs Analysis really...

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I've been advised that Training Needs Analysis are a "waste of time" by an O&D Manager. Why might this be so, and how else can an individual's or team's needs be matched to business needs? Although no longer working in a training role I still tend to do a skills matrix and needs analysis to help me plan IT training. Am I out of touch? What other ways could these needs be identified?
Kate Shillibeer

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Roger Greenaway at PSTD 2016
By Roger Greenaway
28th May 2004 19:46

How can Clive disagree with my guesses about why a manager (who is not me) considers TNA to be a waste of time?

All the posts so far have reinforced the value of TNA. I judged from Kate's posting that she already fully appreciates the value of TNA and wonders why (on earth) an O&D manager might see it as a waste of time.

Apart from comments that assume the manager is simply incompetent, I think mine is the only contribution so far that suggests an explanation about why this manager MIGHT have a reason for saying that TNA is a waste of time.

And to add another 'might', it might be that this manager agrees with much of the advice given so far, but has an even better (and less time-consuming) way of achieving business objectives. Or maybe this manager has yet to see TNA done well?

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By cliveodonnell
27th May 2004 17:44

After reading the other responses, I have this to add:

Firstly, there is no excuse for dismissing the TNA as a "waste of time". Whilst I do agree with some of the comments made, I have to disagree with Roger in some areas. Whilst it is true to say that training may not be ‘the silver bullet’, as management and communication (or lack of it) are often the key issues in organisations. However, if there is a training need, then a TNA MUST be performed in order to meet with the needs of the business, and the individuals.

As for “examining the need more closely when the training is underway” I have to strongly disagree. The point of doing a TNA, amongst many things, is to establish the need for the training. I do agree that training is an iterative process, so change is inevitable during the training life cycle. In some cases the training requirement may be obvious, i.e. a new system, process, or skills to be acquired. In some cases, the need may not be so obvious, i.e. attitude. I would like to add that Instructional Design originated from the military, where I learned the majority of my skills. In all cases the output from any training intervention is a change in either/and KSA (knowledge, skills & attitude).

The main benefit of doing a TNA is to get it as right as possible, the first time.

Regards,

Clive

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By admin
26th May 2004 19:48

Kate,

I wonder who hired this person as a manager? It's worrying that such people are in a position to influence the training needs of an organisation. Did they offer an alternative method to TNA? Chances are they didn't.

I agree with Clive - you're not out of touch! It's your O & D Manager that is.

I have a TNA Matrix in Word format should you wish to add it to your portfolio. e-mail me and I'll send it on to you.

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By admin
26th May 2004 22:07

Kate

May I be a bit of a heretic and say that your O&D MAnager may be right, it all depends on what he or she means by Training Needs Analysis.

To explain. I work in the public sector and one of the things I have noticed is that the concept of what a TNA consists of in the public sector is broader than a lot of people I have worked with in the commercial sector. By this I mean that a TNA establishes at organisational, managerial and individual level;

1. That there is a requirement for specific behaviour(s).
2. What the specific behaviour is (the Knowledge, Understanding and Skills required).
3. That the specific behaviour can only be arrived at by training, as opposed to managing.


What I've seen described elsewhere is what we refer to as performance needs analysis which is an ingredient of a TNA rather than the TNA itself. I also have to admit that we tend to over-complicate things so please don't read this as knocking what others have said!

The benefit of a TNA is simply that if you don't know what is needed how will you know when you've got it, or worse, haven't got it?

I suspect that the O&D Manager in question has confused performance needs analysis with training needs analysis and has assumed that anyone who does the job in question can tell what is needed, hence the comment that TNAs are a waste of time. Not withstanding how effectively and efficiently they do the job in the first place.

Ultimately a TNA (in some form or another) is as vital a component in the training cycle as delivery. Having evaluated TNAs for nationally delivered training courses TNAs are definitely not a, "Waste of time".

If you are out of touch then so are thousands of us.

I'm sure I've got some documents we have used as a guide to TNAs and you are welcome to them if they help.

Regards

Alex Paterson

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Roger Greenaway at PSTD 2016
By Roger Greenaway
27th May 2004 10:53

Kate asks why this might be so.

Maybe the O&D manager just came back from an Appreciative Inquiry seminar and sees strengths to build on rather than needs to meet?

It might be that the O&D manager takes the view that specific needs do not come into sharp focus until the course is under way. It might be about getting the right balance between establishing a training need (in advance) and examining the need more closely when the training is underway. It might be that more detailed needs analysis is best postponed until the training is in progress - provided that there is sufficient flexibility within the training provision.

These are all 'mights'. Only the O&D manager knows the answer. Perhaps these responses will help you to have this conversation?

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By cliveodonnell
31st May 2004 17:52

In response to Roger’s comments:

I do not intend to begin a war of words with Roger, but I do suggest that he reads my comments more carefully, before making further comments!

I said that I had to disagree with Roger in some areas. I did not say that I disagreed with Roger’s guesses about why a manager considers TNA to be a waste of time. Furthermore, I like others, simply offered my opinion. Odd as it may seem, Roger, we all have the freedom to say what we believe, so I won’t apologise for disagreeing with you.

Should Roger wish to discuss my opinion, please feel free to e-mail me.

Regards,

Clive

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By cliveodonnell
26th May 2004 17:47

Firstly, you are certainly not out of touch. In fact, quite the contrary, in my opinion. I tend to cringe when I see comments such as the one quoted by your O & D Manager. This person would appear to either not understand the process, or is totally ignorant of the training life cycle. It is imperative to conduct a TNA, for many reasons. Of course you could simply ask your finance department for an enormous amount of money, with no justification, sanctioned by the O & D manager of course! Then hire many trainers and ask them to just show a few people how things work!!!

My question to you Kate would be along the lines of – how did this person end up in this position? It’s very scary.

The benefits are too many to mention in detail, but in essence, you will identify the training requirement (in line with business objectives) train the right people, with the correct resources, cost effectively. The ultimate aim of course, is to increase the bottom line. Without a TNA, who needs to be trained? In what? Why? How? When? Where? What is the ROI?

Best advice I can offer is to ignore the comments, continue to do what you know best, and ensure that your managers are fully aware of this person’s strange notion!

All the best,

Clive


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By admin
02nd Jun 2004 13:37

The O & D manager may be right yet they seem to be taking a lot of criticism. We should be careful commenting on what one person says in a short posting about what another person believes.

However, it is indeed true that many TNAs are a waste of time.

One example, one of my clients has stopped training and is now conducting an organisation wide TNA. This has been going on since March and they expect to present their findings in September. If accepted, training will resume in November.

Meanwhile, the world moves on.

The responsibility for training, or development, is one shared by all. The difficulties arise when the training department take responsibility for TNAs and for training itself. The result is that the responsibility no longer rests with individuals or with line managers.

Training can thus become divorced from business and the department itself can become isolated.

Kate askes how else can the need of individuals and teams be matched to business needs. A process that I have found to be effective is to take each team, from the top, and explore what it is they need to do to be effective (it's a bit more complicated than this, but I'm just giving you an outline). The output is a business plan.

Some items in this plan might relate to individual or team development. Like all elements in the plan, they will be integrated with business, team and individual objectives. Most importantly, everyone will be committed.

In this way, you do not need to "match" one element with another - all the elements are integrated.

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By tsandman1
02nd Jun 2004 15:03

Hi Kate

I would use the SFIA framework to conduct an assessment of your current IT staff. I would then evaluate each assessment against their job role to understand the skills gap. Once this is established you can aggregate the skills gap data to inform your plan for IT Training.

I can offer you free use of our software for 60 days to conduct the SFIA assessment, apart from a set up cost. The company I work for, InfoBasis, are providers of competency management software.

Contact me and let's get the process underway.

Tom

ps Sometimes people hold opinions about certain organisational processes. Listen to their comments but gain your own experience and decide for yourself.

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Roger Greenaway at PSTD 2016
By Roger Greenaway
28th May 2004 19:42

How can Clive disagree with my guesses about why a manager (who is not me) considers TNA to be a waste of time?

All the posts so far have reinforced the value of TNA.

I judged from Kate's posting that she already fully appreciates the value of TNA and wonders why (on earth) an O&D manager might see it as a waste of time.

Apart from comments that assume the manager is simply incompetent, I think mine is the only contribution so far that suggests an explanation about why this manager MIGHT have a reason for saying that TNA is a waste of time.

And to add another 'might', it might be that this manager agrees with much of the advice given so far, but has an even better (and less time-consuming) way of getting good results.

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By schma_m
28th May 2004 18:23

Given that symatics might be at the heart of the initial conversation that led to this interesting thread, let's forego the name of the process, and focus on the process.

The organisation will have some objectives that it sees as of primary importance, and *should* have some measures that enable it to know how well it is progressing in achieving these objectives. For those familiar with Paul Kearns' writings, this is the baseline.

If these measures are indicating a (potential) problem, then something needs to change in order for these measures to head back to where they should be - it could even be that the measures need to be changed if there is a change in strategy/objectivs - but that's another story.

Given that the need to do something has been recognised, we now need to determine the root cause(s) behind the deterioration in the measures.

Once this is established, the solution is likely to become reasonably, if not blindingly, obvious.

If training is a 'must have' component of the solution, great. If it isn't, is it worth the cost of doing any - does it add enough value? (this is where Kearns' 3 box model is useful)

You now have the means to evaluate the *project* and therefore the training given that success requires both. All that remains is to determine the appropriate delivery methods.

It's simple, though not simplistic. And with a good manager and appropriate culture, there is no need for a trainer/hr person to get involved until the very end. Perhaps. Luckily, most organisations lack good enough management in general and the requisite culture. Phew - there is a need for trainers/hr afterall. Perhaps!

I'm happy to expand further on this process, off line.

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